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  • Carrie Specht

On Golden Pond Returns To Theaters For a Special 40th Anniversary Screening Event

The Academy Award winning classic film, On Golden Pond will be spending its 40th Anniversary in theaters Sunday, December 12, and Wednesday, December 15. The Best Picture nominee of 1981 received Oscars for Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film is a timeless story about family and the enduring love between an elderly husband and wife.

Henry Fonda is brilliant as Norman Thayer Jr. His portrayal of an old man angry about the ravages of age and losing his faculties is truly the best of his long career, and the perfect capstone to a life dedicated to the stage and screen. The always enjoyable Katharine Hepburn shines as his life companion who does her best to help him through his difficult later years. Fonda's real life daughter, Jane Fonda, is particularly effective as the couple's daughter who has a complicated relationship with her dad. The plot is very simple, and even predictable. Yet, in the hands of such talented Hollywood luminaries, the film is fresh and original, and stands the test of time.


Before its initially release there was quite a bit of anticipation for a film that would pair two legendary actors for the first time. That's right, this pair of Hollywood's most revered actors of the Golden Age had never been billed in the same film. In fact, Fonda and Hepburn had never even met before production began. It was the ultimate casting coo finagled by the lead actor's daughter. Jane purchased the rights to the Broadway stage play as a vehicle for her elderly dad. She believed it would give her the perfect opportunity to work with her father for the first and only time. Once that deal was done, there was no doubt an appropriate leading lady would be attracted to fulfill the role of Ethel, Norman's wife. Enter Hepburn.


I can't remember if I saw this film in the theater or not. I was only in Junior High, so I suspect it wasn't until it reached the cable outlets that I did. Even at that age I some how knew the main actors were special (thanks mom). And the film absolutely stood up to my expectations. I was too inexperienced to fully understand the depth of meaning layered through out the story, but it didn't matter. I recognized the relationships of an isolated elderly couple, an angst ridden teenage boy and his divorced father, and the resentment of a women toward a distant parent. I imagine the film his relatable to just about everyone in one way or another. And it's beautifully told.


Director Mark Rydell (The Rose, The Long Goodbye) and cinematographer Billy Williams (The Wind and the Lion, Gandhi) created a loving ode to the bucolic landscape of the New England countryside. Their images are full of soft focus and nostalgic overtones, just perfect for the back drop for this lovely film. The picturesque setting balances well with the weight of the characters created by the esteemed thespians. Although Fonda and Hepburn carry the weight of cinema icons, Rydell and Williams frame the superb performances with expert care and grace, never waisting a frame or overplaying their hand. The overall result is reminiscent of a Rockwell illustration - without the pablum.

I highly recommend catching this film on the big screen. Although it is a quiet little tale about the pangs of growing old and family relationships, the film will leave a strong impression upon you. Even more so if you see it in a darkened theater. It just isn't the same at home on a TV no matter how big it is. This is the kind of film you want to envelope you. So, give yourself an opportunity to do just that and enjoy the movie in its natural habitat.


This 40th anniversary event that includes exclusive insights from TCM.